BY THE TIME I get back from driving my wife to her job in Wheaton, my three workers and my driver, Harvey, are milling around in front of my house, which is also my office, in Silver Spring. I let everybody in. My son Dave starts the coffee and Harvey and I divide up the papers.
I've got my own system that Harvey understands perfectly. I read off an address and both of us know immediately which of five piles it goes in. In an hour we have five groups of papers, each pile arranged in a circular route around one section of town. Each of my workers grab a group of papers and heads for that part of town.
A good knowledge of the city and speed are very helpful attributes in this business. That's why I use Harvey as my driver. An ex-cabbie, he knows the city almost as well as I do. He drives while I sort the papers, record the pertinent identifying information on the affadavit, get the next paper properly folded into a plain white legal-sized envelope. When the car stops, all I have to do is hop out of the car and walk into the building.
Using this system, we can make 25-30 stops a day and serve 14 or 15 papers. Today we stop at a mental health clinic in Silver Spring, the Government Accounting Office, the Pension Building, HEW, a small grocery store, Federal Communications Commission, HUD and several other offices, agencies and business establishments. In this business I go wherever I have to go to find the person who is being sued by someone for nonpayment of bills. Believe me, that takes me everywhere.
Monday night is a long paperwork night. I can work pretty well with Monday night football going. I have to type all of my bills, check all the previous week's work for accuracy and sort all of the papers for the notary public. Howard Cosell usually finishes his work before I finish mine. Tuesday
First thing in the morning, I deliver 175 papers to the notary. Then back to my office to meet my driver.
Tuesday, like Monday, is for POBs (places of business). All of our stops will be where the defendant named on the subpoena works.
Naturally, a lot of people don't like to get served on their job; I remember well a lady weighing about 250 pounds who chased me, cursing at the top of her voice, through the long halls of the Labor Department. But I try to avoid scenes like that. I do my job quietly, with a little savoir-faire, if at all possible.
For instance, today I have to serve a very nice young lady who happens to owe one of my clients' about $600. The young lady works at the GAO and I ask around and use the personnel directory until I find her section. Then I ask her supervisor to tell the young lady that a Mr. Horwitz would like to see her briefly. The young lady doesn't know me; she has a quizzical look as she approaches me. I always keep that long white envelope out of sight.
When she is near I ask, "Are you Jane Doe?" very calmly. She's suspicious, nervous, "Who wants to know?" Now I have to be even more calm, more friendly, "Miss Doe, my name is Horwitz. I'm from the District Court. I have to give you this." Hand her the paper quick.
She flinches, she suddenly realizes what's happening, but she takes it. Now I can be downright neighborly. "Here, do you understand this. Let me show you who to contact about this. Here, this means that you have this much time to respond" . . . etc. I have found that most people will not get angry or abusive while you're trying to help them.
We call it quits early today, about 3:30. Harvey drops me off and I make phone calls and start arranging the papers for tomorrow. Later, I pick up the wife and take her out for Chinese food. Wednesday
This is a day off for everyone who works for me. Not for me, though. First thing, I go to District Court and submit all the typed and notarized affadavits certifying that we served, in person, the defendant named on the subpoena. These affadavits must be filed in court 48 hours before the hearing. Most of the lawyers have it arranged so that almost all of our cases have a Friday hearing date. Wednesday is 48 hours before Friday and the rest of the week we're trying to serve.
After filing in District Court, I start my rounds of visiting some of the attorneys I work for. I drop off my finished work, pick up some new work, get my money and discuss details. One lawyer wants the heights and weight of each defendant recorded on the affadavit. Another had a beef about one of my workers' handwriting. Another argues about the amount of the check he's giving me.
One o'clock and I'm at the bank making the week's deposits, checking on the condition of my business account and discussing the credit business with the vice president.
By 3 o'clock, I'm finished. The rest of the day is mine. Today I play a little pinochle with some used car guys I know. Thursday
Up at 5 a.m. to take care of a guy we've been chasing for three months. I drive out to Arlington and find the local convenience store where, I have recently discovered, the defendant works the 11 to 7 shift as a counterman.
I serve myself a small container of coffee and take my place in the checkout line behind three big cops. Everyone shuffles to the register, waits, shuffles, waits, shuffles. It's my turn.
"Thirty-five," the guy says. I'm handing him a dollar. "Are you Joe Smith, by any chance?" "Sure am," the guy says, "Why?" and I hand him the paper. He looks like he has been smacked in the face. He's got my change in his hand. The three cops are watching all of this with bemused interest.
The guy takes the paper and change sort of trickles out of his hand. He's been served the divorce papers that he's been ducking since July when I phoned him and tried to make an appointment with him so he could accept service nicely. He called me an SOB then. Now he says nothing at all.
Today, Harvey and I are all over town. We put 80 miles on the odometer doubling backing on a lot of work that is running out of time. With small claims suits, the court allows only 14 days in which to serve the subpoena. Naturally the quicker I serve the paper, the more papers I can handle. The more I handle, the more money I can make. Simple.
On Thursday, I try to clean up the stuff that the others haven't been able to serve. It's frustrating work because you think, why should I be successful on the fifth try when my workers have failed four times? But sometimes you get lucky. And I'm very tenacious. I pursue the landlord. I call on the neighbor. I question the mailman. Tricks of the trade. Little things that even my best workers don't usually do. And frequently I get the papers served when no one else can.
We finish the day with 12 clean services. Not a great day, but not bad for a Thursday.
I'm in the house by 4:30 checking the mail. The mail usually includes one or two large manila envelopes containing papers from those law firms that I don't visit on Wednesday. Sometimes, like today, the mail holds a little surprise.
A letter on nice bond with the logo of an Irish-sounding firm from Chicago. A long detailed explanation that boils down to Mr. A. in Chicago suing Messers. X, Y and Z here in Washington. The law suit, involving a land aquisition deal in Montgomery County, totals about $500,000. On these out-of-town specials I usually can make about $50 to $100.
But on this there is no hurry, I put it aside. I put all of the papers aside for today and go up for a long nap. Friday
My main source of income, my biggest account, is a law firm in Rockville that handles nothing but credit suits for large retail companies and bills about a quarter of a million dollars a year. Every Friday I go to this lawyer and pick up my work, count up the papers for the next week, settle any minor disputes, rehash the billing and generally take care of business. Then I drive back to Silver Spring, change cars and start serving.
Because of the late start, we try to hustle a little to make up some time. But before long I can see that the day is shaping up pretty lousy. This is a bad address. This one no longer works here. The next one is out sick. The next is on vacation, the next is out to lunch. And so on.
By 1 o'clock, I'm frustrated and decide to take a long lunch at a Chinese place that serves dim sum. I've been eating at this place, off and on, for 15 years. The food is great and all the waitresses and the owners know me. I'm feeling much better when we leave.
The afternoon seems to be going all right until we get to the Smithsonian looking for a guy who works in the maintenance department. First, I have to check in with the security guard. He calls his chief. The chief calls upstairs to administration. The security people are instructed to bring me up. I have to get cleared through the Smithsonian's counsel. He says okay and I'm taken back down to the security desk. Security escorts me into the bowels of the building and through miles of tunnels and basement storage areas until we reach an employes' locker room. The security guard stands to one side as I approach the defendent and serve him. Then I'm escorted back upstairs and to the front door.
All this has taken 45 minutes, for which I have earned $7.50 . . . minus salary and gas, minus lunch for me and the driver, minus a significant percentage for aggravation. on this particular Friday, I am not getting rich.
After dinner, at home, I work for several hours preparing the papers for the typist. I deliver the work to her about 11 o'clock. Saturday
Saturday is money day. On Saturday we serve only private homes. My workers call in sick or just don't show sometimes, but never on a Saturday. In the late '60s, my oldest son put himself through graduate school just working for me on Saturdays.
We take 200 papers and divide them up. Harvey and I take upper northwest and have a fine day . . . 60 stops and 32 services. Sunday
After 12 years in this business, I automatically wake up at 7 or 7:30. I go out and buy fresh bagels, lox, cream cheese and the newspapers. Later in the morning, my children, their wives and the grandchildren come over to eat breakfast and to talk and visit.
Later, after the kids have left, I'll watch the football games and work on the papers. Perhaps one of our friends will call and ask us to join them for dinner or a movie. And I can hear my wife on the telephone saying, "Okay, but we'll have to make it an early evening. Buddy has to work on his papers.